By Deborah Shatz
(AJNews) – Henry Wisewood class of ‘73 celebrated its 50th anniversary with a reunion this summer. For those who have kept in touch over the years, it was an amazing party, celebrating a huge milestone. But for many of us who have lost touch with just about everyone from that era, it was a real blast from the past, trying to match faces to names to memories.
It was a large class – upwards of 600 students – and there were some 125 people at the reunion. I recognized the names of many and the faces of some and flashed back to numerous memories throughout the evening. A highlight of the event was one classmate apologizing to me for some bad behaviour at my bat mitzvah – I remember the 13-year-old boys from my new group of friends smirking every time I sang ‘debarta bum’ but I’m not sure that’s what elicited the apology. It’s more likely that they took some wine off the tables and tied one on. After 54 years, the apology was heartfelt and endearing.
It was a fun evening, but the reunion took some work on my part; I scrutinized every face and name and tried to jog my memory – that in itself was both challenging and enjoyable.
It was great to see so many names from the past, and splitting up into feeder schools was a reminder of the journey. Attending Milton Williams after the Calgary Hebrew School was a huge step to unrestrained freedom into the larger world that expanded even more with three years at Henry Wisewood. There were lots of new people to meet and a ton of new things to experience.
The real highlight of the reunion for me was attending a pre-reunion event organized by some of the “kids” who attended elementary school with me. Fifteen of us – grade 6 grads from the Hebrew School and IL Peretz School Class of ’67 – gathered for brunch. Of the fifteen, I’ve only kept in touch with one person but there was something very familiar about everyone there.
I was very good friends with only a handful of those Jewish classmates over the 11 years of schooling that I had in Calgary, (I moved there from Winnipeg in grade 2). But I felt a warm camaraderie to them all. We’d been in the same cohort for all those years – through community activities and camp for some, BBYO, USY, and/or NCSY for others and yes Wisewood for us all. Regardless of what was going on in our formative years, at the brunch I felt a bond of shared experience and common values.
At the end of the day, unlike when we were high schoolers, after 50 years, I think our similarities are much stronger than our differences. I got a sense that our lived experiences have taught each of us humility, kindness and compassion – to care for ourselves, our children and grandchildren and our aging parents. Are we community builders, committed to the preservation of our community and our planet? I’m not sure – hopefully some of us are.
Regardless, I certainly enjoyed seeing everyone who attended. As my big-haired friend Patty Silver said – that brunch was like a big group hug. It felt like home.